Orwellian Doublethink and Suffolk County Council
"The Ministry of Truth"
The gleaming Endeavour House headquarters are perhaps reminiscent of the Ministry of Truth -
The ministry of truth was startlingly different from any other object in sight. It was an enormous pyramidical structure of glittering white concrete soaring up, terrace after terrace, three hundred metres into the air...The Ministry of Truth contained, it was said three thousand rooms above ground level, and corresponding ramifications below. George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-FourIf you have read the book you will know that the Ministry of Truth concerns itself with the opposite - lies. In fact it systematically sets out to fabricate history by for example re-writing newspaper stories.
I don't think this is quite what is going on in Suffolk County Council although they did yesterday ban journalist Paul Geater from getting comments from the press office for publishing an article about CEO Andrea Hill wasteful "coaching" sessions that cost the local taxpayers more than £12 000
However I think they have become the masters of Owellian Doublethink. Orwell himself defines doublethink as:
The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them....To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies. George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-FourTo give an example of this, in the Library Consultation document Cllr Judy Terry writes about the possible closure of libraries:
However, should responses to the consultation prove disappointing, it is imperative that we make the necessary savings, meaning that we may have to close 29 libraries.The very next sentence is:
The prospects are exciting for a library revolution, and I look forward to hearing your viewsSo one second libraries might be closed. The next the "prospects look exciting". In the book Orwell describes how the chocolate ration is reduced one minute and then people are on the streets praising the regime for increasing the chocolate ration! This I think is what Suffolk County Council were expecting with their "divestment" strategy - a word for the Newspeak dictionary if ever there was one!
Back in the real world people have been out on the streets in their hundreds protesting about the closure of libraries, thousands have signed petitions against lollipop patrols being axed, the removal of the eXplore card and rural bus reductions as well as attempts to sell off country parks. The mere mention of the CEO's name makes people shout "Hill Out!".
Yesterday Suffolk's Press Office described the response to the library consultation as "fantastic" and then said of it:
The conversation has moved on from the early ‘don’t do this’ stage to people thinking about how we can do it. It’s a fantastic response.You see if you shut your eyes, ignore the protests, ban journalists that you don't like, ignore petitions from thousands of people you can actually start to believe that this is true "To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient".
UPDATE 8/3/2011 1600
I spoke to soon when I wrote that Suffolk CC did not set out to fabricate history by for example re-writing newspaper stories. That's exactly what they have spent today doing. Having called "Evening Star" journalist Paul Geater and told him he was "banned" from receiving comments from the Press Office they then changed their mind. Only now they are claiming they never told him he was banned in the first place!
Calls to mind the constant change in Orwell's book between the three world powers and who is at war with who. When the war changes and Oceania is at war with Eastasia (not Eurasia as before) it is said:
"Oceania is at war with Eastasia. Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia"Or in this case:
"Paul Geater is not banned from receiving comments. Paul Geater has never been banned from receiving comments"I wonder if they will try and recall all copies of last night's Evening Star to re-print them to "clarify the error" .
Guardian Roy Greenslade Blog
Evening Star Report